August is National Breastfeeding Month
August 25 – 31, 2019 is Black Breastfeeding Week
I feel proud of myself about a lot of my mothering decisions.
I do have some regrets – but when those show up and push me towards self-rejection, I have to remind myself that when we know better – we do better.
I was able to nurse my first baby for 10 months and my youngest for 14 months.
It was not easy because breastfeeding is a serious commitment.
I often felt like my body wasn’t mine and I didn’t have control over my “boob schedule” because you know – babies are hungry when they are hungry.
Plus – the stretch marks.
Once I was able to get the hang of using my pump at work – things got into a nice and steady rhythm.
I was forced to take breaks during the work day.
I did miss my baby – but I also had time to just sit and remind myself that I was being a great mom while expressing milk.
The hum of the breast pump sometimes lulled me into a little “disco nap”.
I had to try several pumps before I found exactly the right one.
This was not cheap and it caused me a lot of frustration.
But my mom and husband were steady supporters.
When my daughter was about 7 months old, I was asked to travel to Dallas (from Chicago) for a national conference.
I was honored and thrilled my district wanted me to be the representative for our emerging new teacher mentoring program.
In the middle of my mental celebration – I went into a mild panic because I still had a nursing child and I hadn’t had to navigate work travel.
The first thing I said to my husband was, “I just won’t go. It’s a bad time. I’ll just wait.”
He wasn’t hearing it.
He told me to go in and ask if he could travel with me and bring our baby.
This was something that completely freaked me out.
I had already asked for so much by requesting to have exclusive use of my classroom – all year – to express breast milk.
Now I was going to ask for special work travel support?
I was scared.
I spoke to the staff development director about my desire to go to the conference and bring my family.
She looked at me like I was nuts.
She couldn't believe I was still nursing my baby.
She told me she doubted that could happen.
She asked if I thought this was a professional request to make?
That discouraged me.
It made me feel small and unworthy.
I sat with that information for a day – and then made an appointment to see the HR director in the district.
He was apprehensive about my request – but continued to discuss the situation with me.
His main concern was that if I was allowed to bring my family, then other teachers would have the same request.
This was opening a can of worms.
My response was – we have just hired a large cohort of younger teacher who may be starting families soon.
My request may become the new normal because the demographics of the teaching staff was getting younger.
Did we want to be a supportive district of young families or were we going to lose the younger teachers we were investing so much in – because as a SCHOOL district – we didn’t want to be fully supportive of working parents?
The HR director leaned back in his chair and said he needed to talk with the leadership team, but I had convinced him and I had his full support.
The outcome was we all traveled together.
The district covered my expenses.
My husband and I covered the expenses directly related to our family.
We had a great time, I rocked my presentation, and my baby girl was well fed by me.
Although this outcome worked in my favor – It was a strange and stressful situation to navigate.
Thinking about it now – I am outraged.
But looking at my younger self – I was so appreciative to be a “rising star” – that I was willing to sacrifice my needs.
This should not be the case for mothers want to take care of their babies while furthering their careers.
About 18 months after this situation, there was a “baby boom” in our district – and many more requests, similar to mine, started happening.
I haven’t worked in that district for a very long time, but I hope family travel policies have been updated and I hope dedicated space has been created for nursing mothers.
As a nursing mother, how have you navigated work travel?
Was your company/organization supportive of your breastfeeding needs?
Did you have to advocate for yourself?
PS – Because of the lack of support I experienced as a working mother, my kids are 8 years apart in age – because the whole experience took a lot of recovery time for me.